A Made-in-Canada Green New Deal

It’s time our ambition rises to meet the scale of the challenges we face

Why It Matters

Current efforts are an insufficient response to the climate crisis. In the U.S., a Green New Deal resolution has been put forward by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. It proposes a social, industrial, and economic mobilization on a scale not seen since the Second World War and the New Deal. Is this needed in Canada? What could it look like here? And where do we start?

We are living in a pivotal moment in time.

Climate scientists tell us we have until 2030 to halve our carbon impact if we hope to sustain human life on this planet. The devastating impacts of extreme weather events are all around us: from wildfires in BC, to flooding in the Maritimes, to extreme heat deaths in Quebec.

At the same time, we face a spate of interconnected crises: economic inequality, gaps in our healthcare system, and household debt among them. We live in a time when 46 percent of Canadians are hovering on financial insolvency and the top 20 percent of Canadians control almost 70 percent of the wealth.

These challenges are aggravated by the climate crisis, which impacts those with the lowest income the most significantly.

None of us will get off easy. The economic cost of climate breakdown is estimated at $21-43 billion by 2050. Already, the insured damages for severe weather events across Canada were $1.9 billion, in 2018.

The bottom line is this: How we respond today will seal the fate of our natural ecosystems, economic prosperity, and global security.

Moments of crisis demand big ideas. A made-in-Canada Green New Deal would be a response to the crisis of our time—at the scale it deserves. 

In the U.S., lawmakers have already put forward a Green New Deal resolution in Congress, and Democratic presidential hopefuls are jumping in to affirm their support.

They too see both the urgent opportunity and the enormous costs of inaction.

Modelled after that of the U.S., a made-in-Canada Green New Deal could include:

• Shifting to 100 percent zero-emission and renewable energy sources.

• Retrofitting all existing buildings to the highest energy efficiency standards.

• Building clean, affordable, and accessible public transit, including high-speed rail.

• Building a more sustainable food system that ensures universal access to healthy food.

• Ensuring truly universal access to clean water and affordable housing.

• Skills retraining and a federal jobs guarantee for workers across the country.

A Canadian Green New Deal would create thousands of high-wage jobs from coast to coast to coast. It would be our opportunity to further reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and address the systemic inequalities faced by so many people living in Canada.

Powershift. What a Green New Deal could look like for Canada

In the U.S., those making the case for a Green New Deal point out that necessary funding could flow from the considerable return on investment and wealth these projects would create.

In Canada, we could kick-start this shift with public money we’re currently using to subsidize the economy of the past. If we began by simply eliminating corporate tax loopholes and ending all federal fossil fuel subsidies, we would free up $265 billion over the next ten years.

To refine what a made-in-Canada Green New Deal could look like, we need to start a national conversation about it. One that includes workers in affected industries, businesses, civil society groups, and Indigenous communities.

Thankfully, young people across Canada are already at the frontlines: In February, thousands met in Ottawa at an event called PowerShift. There, they began talking amongst themselves and with Canadians about the specifics of a made-in-Canada Green New Deal.

We should follow the leadership of these young people.

We should take this conversation to our kitchen tables, classrooms, corporate boardrooms, and, ultimately, our Parliament, including people from across the political spectrum.

Because this is not about left versus right.

It is about our collective interest in acting decisively to secure a bright future for generations to come.