Update: Summer Proposals for Canada’s Green Recovery focus on public infrastructure, retrofitting

With the mainstream press zeroing in on the implications of Mark Carney’s return to Ottawa policy circles, and rumours of a “deepening rift” between Prime Minister Trudeau and Finance Minister Morneau over covid-recovery plans, perhaps the moment for a Green Recovery has arrived.  Here are highlights of some proposals made since the last  WCR compilation in a June 17 post.

Proposals from the  labour movement:

Unifor released its  #Build Back Better campaign in June, detailed in a 58-page document, Unifor’s Road Map for a Fair, Inclusive and Resilient Economic Recovery. There are five core recommendations, with detailed discussion of each: 1. Build Income Security Programs that Protect All Workers;  2. Rebuild the Economy through Green Jobs and Decarbonization;  3. Expand and Build Critical Infrastructure  4. Rebuild Domestic Industrial Capacity;  and  5. Strong, Enforceable Conditions on Corporate Support Packages.  Recommendation #2  “Rebuild the Economy through Green Jobs and Decarbonization”, understandably advocates for the sectors which Unifor represents – auto manufacturing, energy, forestry, transit etc. and calls for, among other things, targeted industry support programs, and a federal Just Transition fund (for example, for orphan well clean up and methane reduction initiatives and  expansion of the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund. On the issue of transit, Unifor also calls for the federal government to convene  special committee, bringing together municipalities, labour unions, private and public transit agencies, academics, urban planners and transit rider groups to develop a National Public Transit Strategy. The Road Map also calls for a National Auto Strategy to support zero-emission electric vehicle manufacturing,  a national charging infrastructure, and a call to develop a joint government-union accredited green jobs training system.  Unifor calls on the government to institute a tripartite model for advisory groups and oversight bodies so that labour unions are involved in any initiatives to develop climate/green transition policy frameworks.

#Build Back Better also addresses issues affecting all workers, such as income security, equity, and pension security. Key to these appear in Recommendation #5. “Strong, Enforceable Conditions on Corporate Support Packages”, which states: “ Government must require an environmental sustainability plan, restrict wage reductions for non-executive workers and establish job protection guarantees to prevent layoffs due to restructuring and offshoring. Any capital investment enabled by government support must include Canadian content when equipment is purchased or capital investments are made. Support packages must include a union neutrality clause and prevent recipients from accessing employee pensions for short-term liquidity.”

Rebuilding our Economy for All  describes the priorities of the British Columbia Federation of Labour, as submitted to the provincial Economic Recovery Task Force in May. The sixth of eight priorities states: “We must make up for lost time in addressing the climate crisis, with an accelerated and inclusive path to a green economy”, but doesn’t suggest any specifics beyond the existing Clean BC program . Priority 7, “Use public investment to restart the economy”  translates into mid-term goals  to electrify the transit fleet, launch conservation programs and habitat restoration projects; undertake remediation of industrial sites; replace all government vehicles at end of life with e-vehicles; develop and install zero-emission vehicle infrastructure throughout BC.; and continue to expand public, commercial, and residential building retrofits.

The Ontario Federation of Labour also produced an economic recovery plan in June, The New Normal: Building an Ontario for All   – Submission to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs.  The document calls for investment in public infrastructure, but  makes only one brief mention of climate, calling for the government to : “Develop, support, and resource a climate action plan that focuses on green jobs, carbon emission reductions, and the impact on equity-seeking communities – with clear mandates for industry.”

The Canadian Labour Congress released Labour’s Vision for an Economic Recovery  in May, which with an emphasis on health and safety, and job and income security. It touched on climate-related priorities by calling  for “Green industrial policy and sector strategies, anchored in union-management dialogue”, and endorsed the Just Recovery for All principles.  On July 17,  the CLC issued  a statement of support for the  ‘Safe Restart’  agreement reached between the federal, provincial and territorial governments,  commending the provision of sick leave entitlements so that every worker can take time off when they are sick and need to self-isolate. Also in July, the CLC made six recommendations for reforms  to the Employment Insurance system  to ensure a smooth transition from CERB to EI benefits.

Labour and Green Groups pulling together

It is worth noting that the environmental movement has included job and worker concerns in its proposals for Green Recovery, beginning with the Just Recovery for All campaign in May . Other examples:   Green Strings: Principles and Conditions for a Green Recovery from COVID-19 in Canada , published by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)  in June lists seven “strings”: Support only companies that agree to plan for net-zero emissions by 2050; Make sure funds go towards jobs and stability, not executives and shareholders; Support a just transition that prepares workers for green jobs; Build up the sectors and infrastructure of tomorrow; Strengthen and protect environmental policies during recovery; Be transparent and accountable to Canadians.

Green-Green Budget-Coalitions-Preliminary-Recommendations-The Green Budget Coalition, representing twenty-four leading Canadian environmental organizations, presented a Discussion Paper for their pre-Budget recommendations at the end of June, with their final submission promised for September.  Their focus: 1) Stimulus investments for clean transportation industries; 2) Building retrofit jobs 3) Nature-based climate solutions 4) Conservation and Protected Areas, including Indigenous Protected Areas and Guardian programs.

The David Suzuki Foundation has included “Transform the Economy”   as one of the three pillars of its Green and Just Recovery campaign .  Blog posts with accompanying online petitions have been published on “Pandemic and climate crises unmask inequalities” in May, and “Four Day Workweek can spur necessary Transformation” in August .

Other Proposals of Note, with a  focus on Retrofitting:

ccpa alternative fed budget recovery planThe Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released its Alternative Federal Budget Recovery Plan  in July, stating: “The AFB Recovery Plan is a collective blueprint for how Canada can get through this crisis in the short, medium, and long term. It closes the chapter on the old normal.”….. “COVID-19 exposed the impossibility of a healthy economy without a healthy society. The status quo is no longer an option. This is our chance to bend the curve of public policy toward justice, well-being, solidarity, equity, resilience, and sustainability….”.  The CCPA calls for  “immediate action to  implement universal public child care so people can get back to work, reform employment insurance, strengthen safeguards for public health, decarbonize the economy, and tackle the gender, racial, and income inequality that COVID-19 has further exposed.”  Within this broad framework there is a section titled Climate Change, Just Transition and Industrial Strategy” (pages 50 – 54), which points out that “Governments at all levels have taken unprecedented action to respond to COVID-19 and that same level of ambition and speed must also be applied to the zero-carbon transition…A just recovery from COVID-19 will not be a return to the status quo of an exploitative fossil fuel-based economy.” In the short-term, the Recovery Plan repeats calls for a Just Transition Act for displaced workers and affected communities, (first announced in 2019 ),  a Just Transition Commission, a Strategic Training Fund and a Just Transition Transfer. Furthermore, the Recovery Plan calls for a clear regulatory phase-out of oil and gas production for fuel by 2040 (modeled on the national phase-out of coal power by 2030), beginning immediately so that  recovery funds are not invested into the stranded assets of the oil and gas industry.  In the medium term, the Recovery Plan calls again for a  National Decarbonization Strategy to achieve a net zero-carbon economy through public investments in industries such as electricity generation, public transit, forestry and building and home retrofitting, especially in Canada’s North. This Decarbonization Strategy would allow for $250 million per year to establish a new Strategic Training Fund; $10 billion per year to establish a youth Green Jobs Corps. Amongst the long-term recommendations for rebuilding: high impact green infrastructure projects under direct public ownership, with social enterprises and other forms of cooperative, community-based ownership also encouraged.

On July 22,  the Task Force for a Resilient Recovery released  its Interim Report ,  costing out five key policy directions for the next five years, with a total price tag of just under $50 billion.  The Task Force lists key actions and actors to achieve five broad goals:  “Invest in climate resilient and energy efficient buildings; Jumpstart Canada’s production and adoption of zero-emission vehicles; Go big on growing Canada’s clean energy sectors; Invest in the nature that protects and sustains us; Grow clean competitiveness and jobs across the Canadian economy .   As part of #1, investment in climate resilient and energy efficient buildings, the Task Force calls for “investing $1.25 billion in workforce development for energy efficiency and climate resiliency, including for enhancing access to training programs and for developing new approaches.”  Under the policy goal of investing in nature, the Task Force includes a call for  $400 million investment “to connect unemployed and underemployed Canadians with opportunities in the nature economy, and to boost the planning and implementation capacity of local governments, Indigenous groups, conservation agencies, forestry and agriculture operations, NGOs and tourism bodies.”  The Task Force Final report is promised for September 2020.

The Labour Council of Toronto and York Region, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 353, and the Carpenters District Council of Ontario have signed on as foundation partners in a new coalition of employers, educators, and unions, formed to fast-track green building as an economic and jobs solution to re-start the economy. The Atmospheric Fund (TAF) is the seed funder for the coalition, called Workforce 2030 . It is based on the recommendations of the Canada Green Building Council, Ready, Set, Grow: How the green building industry can re-ignite Canada’s economy , published in May. The TAF proposals are outlined in their submission to the government, here.

Efficiency Canada, another founding partner of the Workforce 2030 coalition, released its Pre-budget Submission to the government on August 5. It calls for $1.5 billion to expand green building workforce training,  $10.4 billion over three years to expand provincial and municipal energy efficiency portfolios, $13 billion to capitalize a building retrofit finance platform implemented through the Canada Infrastructure Bank, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation; $2 billion for large-scale building retrofit demonstration projects; and additional incentives to provinces that adopt higher energy performance tiers of the 2020 model national building codes, with a plan to achieve a 90% compliance rate.

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