This was a busy week for the federal Green Caucus with a Budget tabled on Monday, Elizabeth and Paul successfully forcing an emergency debate on the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic on Wednesday, and Thursday being Earth Day and the major Climate Summit hosted by US President Biden.
Next Monday, Elizabeth will deliver the official Green response to the 2021 Budget, as parliamentary leader. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, none of the Green MPs could attend the budget presentation in person. However, staff from Paul Manly’s team were in the budget lockup and provided the initial brief for the caucus. With a 700+ page budget, the analysis continues.
Initial reactions to the budget
While Greens welcomed many elements of the budget, overall we were disappointed. As has been the case since 2006, there was no budget in the budget. It is not very transparent. There was no movement toward Guaranteed Livable Income (GLI), no wealth tax, only tiny progress on pharmacare (through a small fund for Rare Diseases), no cancellation of fossil fuel subsidies, nor cancellation of the Crown corporation TMX pipeline (a $17 billion project). There was inadequate support for Pacific salmon, and an apparent retreat from the Liberal pledge to pull polluting open pen operations out of our waters by 2025, to instead develop a plan to do so by 2025.
The climate section of the budget had many good initiatives, but they were disguised supports to fossil fuels, through things like Carbon Capture and Storage, and “green” hydrogen (which bears very serious analysis). There is a great plan for $4.4 billion over 5 years for CMHC for energy retrofits, and an investment in EV infrastructure, but it is at best, a downpayment on future climate action.
There was a surprising failure to act on multiple requests, across party lines to help the tourism sector, (with an inadequate relief package of $500 million) and to develop a national coach bus lines network, connecting to VIA Rail. The only funding for VIA Rail was for the Windsor-Quebec corridor. The whole crisis of inadequate affordable transit outside of urban areas was ignored.
On the other hand, Jenica, Paul and Elizabeth were happy to see commitments to a national comprehensive early learning and child care programme. There is an investment to make the construction of new homes more affordable, and an innovative tax on vacant homes, owned by non-resident, non-Canadians. We will track those efforts.
Elizabeth was adamant that the debate not centre on blame, but on solutions. She asked her colleagues how Canada’s provinces and territories could work together to get cases to zero, rather than just flattening the curve. Paul pointed to other countries that successfully arrested the pandemic early on, and suggested that Canada learn from those examples.
Later that day in adjournment proceedings, Jenica pointed out the government’s hypocrisy in regards to climate action and Indigenous justice. She called on the government to listen to Indigenous leaders on these intertwined issues.
In the lead up to Earth Day, Green MPs engaged in some notable events. Elizabeth joined Greens from across the globe, including Caroline Lucas, Green MP from England, and James Shaw, New Zealand’s Environment Minister and Co-leader of the NZ Greens. The Global Greens discussed what voices were missing and what climate policy can no longer be overlooked.
On Tuesday Jenica hosted a roundtable discussion with experts on nuclear responsibility to discuss Canada‘s Nuclear policy and the legacy of nuclear waste.
Questions and Statements
Emergency debate on COVID-19 variants
e-3206 Include long-term care in the Canada Health Act (closes April 25)
e-3301 Stop logging old-growth ecosystems (closes April 25)
e-3218 Reduce violent crime (closes May 2)
e-3221 Reduce emissions to meet the Paris target (closes May 11)
e-3256 Protect the Kavango basin region (closes May 11)
e-3307 Review the Victims Bill of Rights (closes May 30)
e-3159 Ban new strip mines in the Rocky Mountains (closes June 5)
e-3164 Implement a national living wage (closes June 29)