Environmental groups lay out priorities ahead of federal green recovery plan

By Cormac Mac Sweeney

Environmental groups in Canada are calling for a monumental shift in our economy, as the Prime Minister promises a green recovery plan in the upcoming throne speech.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will use the speech to unveil what he calls an ambitious road-map for rebuilding Canada following the economic and societal shock of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s the greatest economic opportunity we’ve had in at least a century,” says Michael Bernstein, executive director of Clean Prosperity, one of many groups publicly calling for significant changes. To move our country away from fossil fuels, they would like to see major investments in renewable energy production, green technologies, and zero emission vehicles.

There is also a heavy push for the government to create a long term program to retrofit commercial buildings and homes to make them more energy efficient. “Deep energy retrofits not only reduce our electricity bills, not only produce more comfortable buildings, but are really associated with a lot of economic value and jobs,” says Isabelle Turcotte with the Pembina Institute.

If the economy is going to transform to a greener future, advocates say the workforce needs to adapt and the Trudeau government should place a new focus on programs to train workers in the skills required for clean economy jobs. Some believe workers with jobs in the struggling oil and gas sector could easily make a switch to positions with clean energy companies.

Environmental groups are also pressuring the federal government to attach green strings to any funding for other industries, continue with its carbon tax program, and stick to its promise to ban single use plastics, with an exemption made for medical supplies and personal protective equipment.

“It can either take us forward toward our climate goals, or it can take us backwards towards more pollution,” says Keith Brooks, programs director at Environmental Defence, who believes the country is at a critical point. He believe strong actions now can help Canada meet its 2030 and 2050 climate targets, despite the policy delays due to the pandemic.

But this green shift likely won’t come cheap.

Several groups estimate the cost of all these measures will be at least $50-billion over the next five years.

“This is truly an investment,” argues Bernstein. “This is money that will go to creating economic opportunity, and if we do things right we’re actually going to save Canadians money over the long term.”

The Governor General will deliver the Trudeau government’s speech from the throne on September 23rd.

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