The First Ministers meeting in Vancouver raised enormous expectations, culminating on March 3 with the release of an 8-page Vancouver Declaration on Clean Growth and Climate Change , (in French here ). The Declaration pledged immediate federal investment in green infrastructure, public transit infrastructure and energy efficient social infrastructure; investing in clean energy and clean tech R & D, as well as electric vehicles and clean electricity. It creates working groups to report by October 2016, in four areas: Clean Technology, Innovation and Jobs; Carbon Pricing Mechanisms; Specific Mitigation Opportunities; and Adaptation and Climate Resilience. Acknowledging that ANY federal-provincial discussion represents progress from the Harper years, reaction to the meetings was generally optimistic – for example, Four Reasons the First Ministers Meeting on Climate Matters from Clean Energy Canada, and Vancouver Declaration Moves Canada Closer To A National Climate Plan from DeSmog Blog. The Council of Canadians disappointment is explained in “Council of Canadians protest as first ministers fail to take needed action on climate change” , and the outrage of some Indigenous leaders marred the meetings, see “Indigenous leaders shocked at exclusion from climate change meeting” in The National Observer . For a simple, balanced overview, read “From Paris to Vancouver: What happened at the First Ministers meeting on climate” by Marc Lee at Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives , who rightly points out that achieving a clean economy is a political problem, not a technical problem, and who advises us to “watch the budget”.
Action on climate change is listed as one of the top 10 things Canadian unions want to see in the federal budget, according to the Canadian Labour Congress. And the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives included a call for a national carbon price of $30 per tonne in their Alternative Budget . When the actual federal Budget was delivered on March 22 by Finance Minister Morneau, he characterized the new government as a “champion of clean growth and a speedy transition to a low-carbon economy.” Spending allocations include: $2.5-billion for public transit; $1.8-billion on green infrastructure; $574-million for energy and water efficiency upgrades in social housing; $401-million for a variety of clean-tech development efforts; $1.7-billion for climate and environmental protection, and an additional $1-billion in each of 2018 and 2019 to establish a low-carbon economy fund for provinces and territories that sign on to a national climate agreement. The Budget did NOT eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, and DID include a provision to allow LNG producers to write off their capital investments at an accelerated pace for the next 10 years. For an overview, see “Liberals unveil spending as ‘Champion of Clean Growth” in the Globe and Mail (March 22). Read CUPE’s response here .