Rick Smith

A prominent Canadian author, environmentalist and non-profit leader, Rick is the Executive Director of the Broadbent Institute.

From 2003 to 2012, he served as Executive Director of Environmental Defence. He is the co-author of two bestselling books on the health effects of pollution: Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health (2009) and Toxin Toxout (2014). A Quill & Quire “Book of the Year”, Slow Death by Rubber Duck has been featured by the Washington Post (which said it “is hard-hitting in a way that turns your stomach and yet also instills hope”), Dr. Oz, Fox News, and Oprah Magazine, and translated into six languages.

Rick is a former Chief of Staff for the federal NDP, and has led many successful campaigns for important new public policies at the federal and provincial levels related to environmental and consumer protection, urban planning and green jobs creation. Originally from Montreal, he holds a Ph.D. in biology from the University of Guelph, is currently a Director of Équiterre and the Greenbelt Foundation, and a member of the Panel of Environment and Sustainable Development Advisors for the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development of Canada. When not working in an airport terminal somewhere, he lives in east end Toronto with his wife Jennifer Story and their two young boys.

Posts & Activities by Rick Smith

  • BC leads the way to a better future for people and planet

    Maybe it was the months of smoke-filled skies or the flash floods following hard on the heels of long droughts. Or maybe it was mountainsides covered in beetle-killed trees or glaciers melting to slivers of ice. Whatever the reason, British Columbia has got the message when it comes to climate change.

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  • An international view on Trudeau's electoral reform mess


    I had to watch Prime Minister Trudeau’s epic electoral reform meltdown from a distance over the past couple of weeks given my attendance at an international meeting of progressive policy leaders in South Africa. 

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  • On Donald Trump and the fight for progress in Canada


    On January 20, a dangerous con-man took high office in the United States.

    Openly trading in hate while ushering in more inequality will be Donald Trump’s MO for the next four years. While the far right gains ground globally, locally we’re not immune.  It is a troubling moment for progressives. It’s also an opportunity to respond and to act.

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  • Happy 80th Birthday Ed Broadbent!

    Sign Ed's Birthday Card

    We will hand deliver Ed's messages to him - help us make his 80th special.

    Ed has been working for a more inclusive, fair and just Canada for more than 50 years. On his 80th Birthday, let’s celebrate his life & accomplishments! 


  • As inequality grows, so does the will to fight it


    Call me crazy, but as our elected representatives return to Parliament next week, I’m actually feeling a little hopeful.

    That’s because as we approach a critical election next year, the pressing issue of inequality might finally take centre stage. It’s more than a hunch. Inequality is clearly forming roots in the public imagination.

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  • The Conservatives Propose Family Policy for a Bygone Age


    The Harper government’s tax package released Thursday is a throwback to the family policies of a bygone era. It turns its back on the pressing need for affordable, high quality child care; introduces a new tax measure which will mainly benefit traditional families with a stay at home spouse; and brings back the old family allowance in a modified form.

    The government’s token response to calls for a national child care program is to modestly increase the Child Care Expense Deduction – representing a tiny fraction ($395 million) of the government’s package exceeding $26 billion. This will hardly make child care any more affordable, and will do nothing to create badly needed new spaces. The deduction has to be claimed by the lowest earning spouse and the increase of $1,000 per child will translate into just $150 per year for those in the bottom tax bracket.

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  • Introducing the Jack Layton and Charles Taylor Awards


    Every day across this vast country of ours, groups of people get organized and work together to make their neighbourhood, city, province and nation a better place.

    Often invisible and unheralded, these efforts are actually the wellspring of social progress.  As anthropologist Margaret Mead notes in her well-loved quotation, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”  

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  • February 14th Women's Memorial March Committee wins inaugural Jack Layton Progress Prize


    The Broadbent Institute is about ideas and action, so when we set out to organize our second annual Progress Summit months ago, we decided to begin a new tradition: the creation of annual awards recognizing the work of a great campaigner and an important thinker who have made significant contributions to building a better Canada. 

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  • Executive Director Rick Smith's closing comments at the Progress Summit


    Bon matin tout le monde.

    What a fantastic energizing weekend it has been. Many important conversations. New friends. Lots of great ideas to act on.

    Let me thank our speakers, our staff, our volunteers, and all of you for your active engagement. Je veux remercier l’équipe extrêmement dévoué de l’Institut Broadbent. Il m’est un grand honneur de travailler à vos côtés.

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  • The unbalanced Harper budget


    Presumably, Jim Flaherty considered the same economic picture of the country as the rest of us when planning the 2014 budget.

    That picture is not rosy.

    Almost one and half million Canadians are currently out of work. The unemployment rate remains stubbornly high at 7% and the employment rate (the proportion of the working age population with a job) has yet to recover since the great recession. For youth, the unemployment rate is almost double that, at 13.9%.

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  • Toxin Toxout by Bruce Lourie and Rick Smith: review


    Bruce Lourie and Rick Smith are the authors of a previous bestseller called Slow Death By Rubber Duck. In that book, they detailed a shocking list of toxic chemicals that are present in almost everything surrounding us; the air we breathe, the water we drink, our food, the containers we package it in, the toys we buy our children, and even the personal-care products we use to keep ourselves clean, fresh and healthy. They bravely experimented on themselves to determine whether purposeful exposure to harmful chemicals could measurably increase the levels of toxins in their own bodies. 

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  • “Toxin Toxout”: it’s the green economy, stupid!


    Five years ago, when Bruce Lourie and I started work on our first book, Slow Death by Rubber Duck:  How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Healthit wasn’t immediately obvious to some why two environmentalists would concern themselves with toxins in the human body. The topic didn’t fit neatly into the “environmental issue” pigeon hole. “Isn’t that the domain of yoga enthusiasts and nutrition nuts?” we were occasionally asked.

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  • Squandering Canada’s Moment


    “Seizing Canada’s moment.”

    It’s an odd title for a Throne Speech that was absent any kind of momentous vision for this country.

    “Seizing” the moment would mean tackling the challenges that today’s Canada faces: stagnant or falling wages for middle- and lower-income Canadians; crises in Aboriginal education, food, housing, and missing and murdered women; high youth unemployment; eroding citizen trust in democracy; and environmental degradation, to name but a few.

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  • Meet the Broadbent Fellows


    Though it’s true that political and policy debates can get wild and woolly, here at the Broadbent Institute we believe that always grounding arguments in the best available facts is of paramount importance.

    So it’s with considerable pride that today the Institute unveils the Broadbent Fellows — a diverse, multidisciplinary group of distinguished scholars, policy experts, and leaders from Canadian civil society who will inform the Institute’s research and policy agenda.  Fellows will contribute their expertise to further our efforts to impact public debate in support of progressive change and create innovative approaches to making our country a better, more prosperous, place for all Canadians. 

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  • In his own words: Hugh Segal on Bill C-377


    Bill 377 is anti-democratic and will destabilize the Canadian economy. Conservative Senator Hugh Segal put it best this week when he said:

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  • Pipeline dreams turn to ashes for Big Oil


    Two years ago, shortly after the last federal election when I still worked for a national environmental organization, I had a private meeting with one of the more senior lobbyists for the Canadian oil industry. Over a lengthy coffee I suggested that the recent election of his friends in the Conservative party for a comfortable majority mandate presented him with two possible courses of action:

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  • Budget 2013: Jim Flaherty not skating to where the puck is going to be


    Lost in all of the detail of Budget 2013 is the fact that it makes remarkably little difference to the trajectory Canada was on before the budget. Cuts to programs and services to close the small fiscal deficit remain the order of the day, while only lip service is given to the task of investing to create good jobs in a more productive, fair and sustainable economy.

    Direct federal government program spending will fall by $4 billion in the coming fiscal year, the result of deep spending cuts already announced in the last budget combined with some tiny increases in the new budget.

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  • Ed Broadbent speaks out against income inequality

    In a recent feature interview with Amanda Lang, host of CBC's The Exchange with Amanda Lang, Broadbent Institute Chair Ed Broadbent spoke about inequality, politics, government, social democracy and more.

    Here is the interview:

  • Harper Government Continues Attack on Labour Rights

    bargainingrights-wader-byncsa2.0_0.jpgIn a series of recent landmark decisions, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that basic trade union rights, including the right to collective bargaining and the right to strike, are protected by the freedom of association provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    The Court has struck down federal and provincial laws that deny some workers the right to join a union, which unilaterally change collective agreements without consultation and due process and which limit the right to strike in the event of an impasse in bargaining.

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  • Statement on the launch of Unifor

    On behalf of the Broadbent Institute, I’d like to congratulate the Canadian Auto Workers and the Canadian Energy and Paperworkers’ Union on today’s launch of their new union, Unifor.

    A strong and effective labour movement is critical for the prosperity of all Canadians. This bold move today is important not just for Unifor’s 300,000 members, but for the future of Canada itself.

    The Broadbent Institute looks forward to working with Unifor over the years ahead for good jobs, a renewed democracy, and a sustainable and prosperous Canada.