As it has for 26 years, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released its Alternative Federal Budget, offering progressive, costed policy choices for Canada, along with a plan to pay for them. This year’s AFB, released on November 9, is titled: Mission Critical: A Just and Equitable Recovery, which focuses on key issues which include: strengthening and expanding the existing health care system, implementing universal public child care, reforming Canada’s income security system, addressing the housing crisis, and moving forward on reconciliation with First Nations peoples. Climate action is addressed in Chapter 7, “Physical Infrastructure for People, Biodiversity and Planet”, and relates to Chapter 6, “A Vision for Job Creation and Decent Work”.
Regarding climate action policies, the CCPA states “Building on the government’s own commitments to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, this AFB ramps up the stringency of environmental regulations. It also takes a more hands-on approach to transitioning the economy away from the production and consumption of fossil fuels.” Specifically, the document calls for an immediate moratorium on new fossil fuel extraction projects, and a phase- out of coal, oil and natural gas production for fuel by 2040. The ensuing disruption would require a permanent, independent Just Transition Commission, to oversee and co-ordinate the federal government’s just transition agenda for all sectors (not just fossil fuels), and to develop regional transition road maps. For workers affected by fossil fuel closures (and the disruption to ancillary businesses in those communities), the AFB calls for “generous and predictable benefits”, financed by a budget allocation of $100 million per year over 20 years (the estimated lifetime of Canada’s fossil fuel phaseout). This translates into a $2,000 monthly Just Transition Benefit to offset their income loss for as long as it takes them to find re-training and/or re-employment. For workers who are near retirement and cannot reasonably retrain for a new career, this benefit bridges their income till their pensions begin. The Commission would be supported by a $5 million per year budget, and would include the a wide variety of stakeholders, including labour unions, civil society groups, Indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, business associations, independent experts, and public servants from governments of all levels.
Other notable climate-related proposals: 1. Adjust the existing revenue-recycling formula for the national carbon pricing system by reallocating the majority of federal revenue away from middle-to-high-income households and toward emission reduction initiatives in the provinces where revenue is generated. 2. Establish a new federal economic diversification crown corporation which would prioritize direct public ownership of new infrastructure, funded by $15 billion per year over five years to allow it to invest at the required scale. 3. Reconstitute the Canada Infrastructure Bank to become a fully publicly financed bank with a mandate to invest in publicly owned and publicly operated infrastructure (and to require Community Benefits Agreements in those projects). The new CIB would also provide low-cost loans to municipalities, Indigenous governments, and other public bodies to scale up important infrastructure projects that are in the public interest, and would include the new Economic Diversification Crown Corporation.