Federal government sets out new requirements for Infrastructure funds – climate lens, community benefits

The Investing in Canada Plan of the federal government will invest more than $180 billion over 12 years for public transit projects, green infrastructure, social infrastructure, trade and transportation, and Canada’s rural and northern communities. Two recent press releases define how the program funds will be awarded:  at the start of June , Infrastructure Canada announced that proposals under the Investing in Canada program, as well as the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund,  and those submitted to the Smart Cities Challenge,  will be required to use a “climate lens”, to assess “how their projects will contribute to or reduce carbon pollution, and to consider climate change risks in the location, design, and planned operation of a project.”  The General Guidance document for Climate Lens is here  .

second press release,  on June 22,  announced a new Community Employment Benefits requirement – under which applicants for major projects will be required to set targets for training and employment opportunities for at least three groups targeted by the CEB initiative: Indigenous peoples, women, persons with disabilities, veterans, youth, apprentices, and recent immigrants, as well as procurement opportunities for small-to-medium sized businesses and social enterprises.  The  General Guidance document for Community Enterprise Benefits   explains the administrative details.

Mowat report community benefits agreements Ontario became the first Canadian jurisdiction to promote community benefits, through the Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act 2015 , and in May 2018, the province announced five new community benefits projects under its Long-term Infrastructure plan.

Engage and Empower , an April 2018 report from the Mowat Centre at University of Toronto,  discusses the Ontario Community Benefits framework, and sets out principles which are applicable outside Ontario.  It states: “it is essential to engage that community to understand the types of benefits that are most aligned with its priority needs, and to continue this engagement throughout the project as impacts are being measured and evaluated. This process of defining and engaging the community requires an ongoing relationship built on trust and collaboration … It is critical that governments avoid an overly prescriptive approach and recognize, instead, that communities are dynamic and robust ecosystems – with existing networks and capabilities – and desire autonomy in the process of defining, articulating and negotiating the benefits to accrue through an infrastructure project.”

 

Infrastructure Canada invests in public transit and requires Community Employment Benefits agreements

An April 11 article in the National Observer, “After massive investments , Trudeau government puts public transit on track” attempts to explain the political and bureaucratic tangle of the Canada Infrastructure Plan in the wake of a series of press releases by the federal government.  Those press releases have announced  $33 billion in funding for infrastructure projects through bilateral agreements with the provinces and territories, with the lion’s share – $20.1 billion –  going to public transit.  The National Observer article also profiles some public transit projects already announced or in progress: the 12.5-kilometre, 13 stations Ottawa light rail project; a  $365 million plan to extend the Montreal’s  Blue Line for five stops; Calgary’s Green Line LRT; Victoria B.C.’s plan to improve resilience against seismic activity; and new electric and hybrid buses for Gatineau and Laval, Quebec, and London Ontario. Another excellent update of Canada’s public transit appeared in Corporate Knights magazine in January 2018, “The e-bus revolution has arrived”. And in March, Winnipeg Transit released its report on electrification of its bus fleet- summarized by the CBC here ; Winnipeg is home to the New Flyer Industries, which manufactures the battery-electric buses in use.

Public transit is obviously good for reducing Canada’s transportation-related GHG emissions, and investments at this scale are obviously important sources of  job creation. The Bilateral Letter of Agreement with Ontario states: “ a Climate Lens will be applied to these federal investments, and a Community Employment Benefits Reporting Framework will be applied for relevant programs under the Investing in Canada Plan. Both the Climate Lens and the Community Employment Benefits Reporting Framework will be developed in consultation with provinces, territories, municipalities and other stakeholders over the next few months and will be embedded in the integrated bilateral agreements once completed.”   Community benefits agreements are already in place in some transit construction projects in Toronto,  and Ontario passed the  Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act, 2015 , which states: “Infrastructure planning and investment should promote community benefits …. to improve the well-being of a community affected by the project, such as local job creation and training opportunities”.

For inspiration on another side of the issue, read the recent article, “Connecting green transit and great manufacturing jobs” in Portside on April 14.  It provides a very detailed case study of the fight to bring domestic, union jobs to light rail manufacturing in Los Angeles,  a campaign spearheaded by Jobs to Move America (JMA) .  From their website, JMA “is dedicated to ensuring that the billions of public dollars spent on American infrastructure create better results for our communities: good jobs, cleaner equipment, and more opportunity for historically marginalized people.”  Their website provides research papers and news updates.

electric_bus_banner Winnipeg

New Flyer Electric Bus, Winnipeg Manitoba. Image from http://winnipegtransit.com/en/major-projects/electric-bus-demonstration/ 

 

Site C Hydro Dam will go ahead after historic decision by B.C.’s NDP Premier

site-c-project-location-mapBringing an end to years of controversy, in what NDP Premier Horgan called a “very, very divisive issue”, the British Columbia government announced on December 11 that it will proceed with construction of the Site C hydroelectric dam , on the grounds that it is too late to turn back.  In a press release  which blames “megaproject mismanagement by the previous government”, the government justifies its decision by saying that  cancellation would result in  “ an immediate and unavoidable $4-billion bill – with nothing in return – resulting in rate hikes or reduced funds for schools, hospitals and important infrastructure.”  The press release continues with a list of sweeteners for the opponents of the project, announcing that improved project management to keep costs to $10.7 billion; new community benefits programs to keep jobs in local communities and  increase the number of apprentices and First Nations workers hired; a new BC Food Security Fund to help farmers whose land will be negatively affected; and the promise of a new alternative energy strategy for B.C. .

The National Observer provides a brief overview of reaction in “As costs escalate, Horgan says it’s too late to stop Site C mega-project” . CBC News covers the debate and the decision in several articles, including “ John Horgan disappoints both Site C opponents and supporters in northeast B.C.”   and “B.C. government to go ahead with Site C hydroelectric dam project ” which examines the huge political fallout and  states that the Green Party , which holds the balance of power in B.C.’s legislature,  will not  force an election over the issue, despite their opposition to the decision.

Reaction on labour issues :  For mainstream union reaction to the decision, see “Site C: What Happens Next?”  in The Tyee (Dec. 11)  .  The complex labour politics of Site C is summarized in “ Construction Unions Pressing for Completion of Site C” , which appeared earlier in The Tyee,  (Nov. 24) , and takes a deep dive into the ties between the NDP government and  the Allied Hydro Council of BC, a bargaining agent for unions at previous large hydro projects, and an advocate of the  Site C project.  Following the decision, the  Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) stated their “relief” for the go-ahead decision, with the reservation that “Arbitrarily setting apprentice and other workforce ratios will limit contractor flexibility and inevitably drive up costs and slow the construction schedule.”   Similar sentiments appear in the press release from the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) , which represents the majority of Site C workers  under the Open Shop system in place since 2015.

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Photo by Yvonne Tupper, from CBC News

Re the First Nations opposition: “‘A reconciliation fail’: B.C. First Nations promise court action over NDP’s approval of Site C”   at CBC News (Dec. 12), quotes First Nations leaders, including the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, and the West Moberly First Nations and Prophet River First Nations, who have already announced that they will apply for a court injunction to halt construction of the project and begin a civil action for Treaty infringement.

A sampling of reaction of environmentalists appears in “Site C a betrayal of First Nations, Ratepayers and Future Generations” (Dec. 11) and in multiple articles at DeSmog Canada https://www.desmog.ca/  . A glimpse of the environmental campaign appears at the Stop Site C website , and the  Wilderness Committee, a member of that campaign, reacts here .

Case studies of Community and human rights impacts of Renewable energy companies, and a ranking of multinationals in Ag/Food, Apparel and Mining

renewable energy investor briefing coverAn April 2017 report from the London-based advocacy group,  Business and Human Rights Resource Centre asks,  “What adverse impacts can renewable energy projects have on communities around the world?”   Renewable Energy investor briefing: Managing risks & responsibilities for impacts on local communities  (April 2017) is directed at financial and investment professionals who are considering investment in renewable energy projects- in this report, comprised of wind and small-to-medium hydro, but excluding solar .  It starts from the premise that Just Transition principles are essential, then explains the international human rights responsibilities of companies.  The report also provides examples of the kinds of questions that should be asked in shareholder meetings and before investment decisions are made, and gives examples of best practice policies – for example, inclusion of community benefits agreements.  One of the main issues it discusses is the right to free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples, which is an ongoing topic monitored by the BHRC.

The report provides case studies, including  six positive examples, including: the Ixtepec community-owned wind project in Mexico; the Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm in South Africa; and  a cluster of wind projects in Jämtland, Sweden, for which OECD guidelines are being used in negotiations between the company and affected Indigenous people.  The full suite of case studies is presented in a searchable database which allows searching by company name, issue, country, and more.  There are no Canadian projects included in the 2017 report, although a profile of Ontario Power Generation  is available as part of the Centre’s ongoing database  of human rights in the energy sector  .

In March 2017, the Centre also launched an updated and expanded  Corporate Human Rights Benchmark website , which ranked 98 of the world’s largest publicly traded companies, from the  Agriculture, Apparel, and Extractive industries. The Benchmark is intended to drive a “race to the top” and is directed at business, government, and “ to empower civil society, workers, communities, customers, and the media with better public information to reward, encourage, and promote human rights advances by companies and make well-informed choices about which companies to engage with.”  A 50 page summary report is here .  There are six thematic measurement categories, including “ Company Performance: Human Rights Practices”  which  includes rankings related to living wage, freedom of association and right to bargain collectively, health and safety, amongst others.

Ontario’s Climate Action Plan: beyond job creation to job quality for building trades workers

solar-panel-house_4A report released on April 19th aims to contribute to a strong, future-proofed green jobs strategy for Ontario.  Building An Ontario Green Job Strategy: Ensuring the Climate Change Action Plan creates good Jobs where they are needed most  focuses on the building sector provisions within Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan (June 2016)  – which are estimated at 28 – 31% of the budget allocations of the Action Plan.

Building an Ontario Green Job Strategy states:  “Ontario’s investment of C$1.91 billion to $2.73 billion in retooling buildings, as outlined in the Climate Change Action Plan of 2016 , could create between 24,500 to 32,900 green jobs over the five-year funding plan with a further 16,800 to 24,000 jobs created from the reinvestments of energy cost savings into the economy.”  Job creation forecasts were calculated using  three  job multipliers, including that from the 2012 report by Heidi Garrett-Peltier, Analysis of Job Creation and Energy Costs Savings , published  by the Institute for Market Transformation and the Political Economy Research Institute at University of Massachusetts.

Beyond the evidence of the job creation potential of energy efficiency investments, the report also makes significant recommendations to ensure job quality.  Amongst the recommendations for the provincial government: Conduct a high-carbon jobs census and low-carbon skills survey so that workforce planning will work from an accurate base; make use of existing training programs and facilities; push for rigorous standards (specifically, run a pilot project of a Canadian Building Performance Institute, modelled after the U.S. BPI, to oversee credentialling and certification for trades), and consider an Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard; investigate support for domestic industries (avoiding any WTO sanctions by following  a Sustainable Energy Trade Agreement model); work to implement carbon border adjustments to avoid carbon leakage ; and design programs to stand the test of time and changes to the governing party.

Building an Ontario Green Job Strategy recognizes that the Ontario Climate Change Action Plan included language about Just Transition, but it recommends strengthening and clarifying that language.  It also holds up two models for  tendering and procurement processes:  Community Benefits Agreements (CBA), which ensure that infrastructure investments result in social and economic benefits to the community and citizens of the  immediate neighbourhood –  with a case study of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT project in Toronto,  and High Road Agreements,  where contractors are assessed against an established set of sustainable contracting standards and community benefits- with a  case study of a  Portland Oregon retrofit project.

The report was written by Glave Communications for the Clean Economy Alliance , Environmental Defence, and Blue Green Canada , “with the participation of the United Steelworkers, UNIFOR, Clean Energy Canada, the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, the Labour Education Centre, the Columbia Institute, Canadian Solar Industries Association, Ontario Sustainability, the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, and Evergreen.”