OTTAWA – Green Party MPs applaud the federal government’s pandemic relief efforts made during the COVID-19 pandemic and appreciate ongoing opportunities for dialogue and consultation between the parties to seek solutions that work for both citizens and businesses affected by the crisis.
As Canada prepares to open up sectors of the economy and consider economic stimulus options, the Green caucus says that spending plans must be developed with a lens on the other crisis, the climate emergency. “This is an opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare Canada for future emergencies through green infrastructure development. What the Green Party wants to see is investments in public infrastructure rather than stimulus spending on P3s and private infrastructure ,” said MP Paul Manly Green caucus critic for labour, employment, workforce development and disability inclusion
A recent report by Nobel winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and renowned British climate economist Lord Nicholas Stern, based on interviews with over 200 experts from central banks and economists from G20 countries, found that investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency will create a large number of jobs in the short term while we are in a recession and jobs are scarce. Investments in fossil fuels could stall economic recovery.
One key piece of infrastructure the Green Party proposes is the construction of an east-west and north-south electricity grid that would connect the provinces and territories. The grid would maximize each region’s renewable energy capacity. “It’s important that new infrastructure projects remain publicly owned to realize the full value of taxpayers’ investments,” said Manly. “The sale of Hwy 407 in Ontario is a cautionary tale that should be heeded. That highway cost $1.5 billion to build and was then sold in 1999 for $3.1 billion to a Spanish multinational corporation. It’s now valued as high as $28 billion and this corporate owned ‘cash cow’ costs Ontario drivers almost a billion dollars each year to use.”
Another spending priority identified in the Stern-Stiglitz report that delivers a high number of jobs per dollar is energy retrofits of older buildings. “Energy retrofit programs directed towards lower income households would decrease social and health inequality by shrinking real electricity costs and keep houses warm in the winter,” Manly noted. “If we want to reward our low-wage frontline workers, providing energy efficient homes would be a good way to do that and save them money.”
MP Atwin (Fredericton) sees potential in federal funds supporting provincial infrastructure. “Investing in health care and long term care infrastructure are both badly needed across the nation, and these facilities can be among the first to see widespread energy efficiency retrofits,” said Jenica Atwin, Green caucus critic for health. “After witnessing the tragedy in private long term facilities it’s clear that these facilities should also be publicly owned.”
“As we craft the economic recovery from COVID-19, we have a unique opportunity to combine fiscal investments with climate responsibility,” said Elizabeth May, Green parliamentary leader. “The ideas that these experts are bringing forward – leading economists, scientists and innovators – need to be heeded the same way we listen to the health authorities. There is a path forward through this Covid-19 crisis and through the climate emergency that will leave a lasting legacy of a liveable planet for our children and grandchildren.”