Opinion: Green caucus priorities include congruently addressing climate and housing crisis

Elizabeth May, Green Leader and MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands, Mike Morrice, MP for Kitchener Centre

Green caucus priorities include congruently addressing climate and housing crisis – The Hill Times

September 18, 2023

In a recent opinion piece nationally respected pollster Nik Nanos describes the upcoming session of Parliament as though it were a political emergency room. We face a “triage conundrum” for which casualty gets priority. “We now have a collision of two major policy risks… climate change and the economy.”

For Greens, there is no conundrum. The answer is to get both into surgery stat. There is no time to waste.

Failure to act on the climate emergency increases our costs – from extreme weather events costing billions each year, to inflation, particularly in our grocery carts, driven at least in part by climate events that destroy crops and reduce yields – costs are going up in very real terms. The Conservative Common Nonsense that climate action, particularly in carbon pricing, drives inflation has been completely disproven by Bank of Canada analysis. No worries, we expect to continue to hear the chorus of “axe the tax” for the foreseeable future from the Conservative benches. We do not expect them to be deterred by the facts. And proving that the fossil fuel lobby and its political handmaidens do not understand economic fundamentals, we have this summer’s bizarre attack on renewable energy from the Alberta government. It is rare to see a government drive away billions of dollars of investment in new technologies.

Meanwhile, the federal Liberals are intent on wasting billions in new fossil fuel subsidies, with $31 billion on the TransMountain expansion alone.

Simultaneously the housing crisis demands attention congruent with climate action. We need millions of new homes and could be building energy-efficient and climate-resilient co-op and social housing as CMHC did decades ago. Yes, we should at minimum double the social housing stock in Canada. And if the Liberals were serious about homes being for people to live in and not for corporate investors to profiteer from, they would have supported the Green Party motion (tabled by Mike Morrice MP a year ago) calling to end the tax exemption for real estate investment trusts and use the funds to build more affordable housing.

To increase available funds to build housing, Greens have long called for measures like wealth taxes and a windfall profit tax on the fossil fuel sector. We know Big Oil has no intention of paying for the environmental damage created by gouging Canadians to generate record breaking profits. As they benefit from Putin’s war on Ukraine, governments must condemn such war profiteering and tax those ill-gotten profits.

A wealthy industrial country like Canada can also no longer ignore the disproportionate rates of poverty amongst Canadians with disabilities. We will keep fighting for the Canada Disability Benefit to be fully funded and for a disability emergency response benefit in the meantime, as a first step towards true equity via a guaranteed livable income for all.

Alongside these priorities, Greens will continue to push for electoral reform, passage of a Green Party private member’s bill (tabled by Elizabeth May MP last Fall) to address environmental racism in the Senate, and for a respectful discourse that focuses on putting Canadians’ priorities ahead of partisan rancour.

Finally, we need all elected people in this country to have a basic level of climate and economic literacy. Climate science is complex but failing to understand it can be fatal – to our economy and to millions of species. We are at risk of blowing by our international commitments to hold the global average temperature to as far below 2 degrees C as possible and preferably to hold it to 1.5 degrees C.

What we need to understand is that avoiding every fraction of a degree increase in global heating will save millions of lives and billions of dollars. Stopping the TMX pipeline is the least costly option to avoid increasing our emissions by a lot. As our forests go up in smoke, over a billion tonnes of greenhouse gases have been released this wildfire season alone – further stoking the furnace of global heating. Those emissions are not counted against our legally binding targets, but the atmosphere does not care. Physics and chemistry drive global warming. The atmosphere does not give a damn about politics. But humanity must. We need all hands on deck in that mythical emergency room. Save lives now.