Sunday 7 July 2019

Saskatchewan Contributes to a Green New Deal for Canada

pool surrounded by greenery

In February 2019, two Democratic members of the US House of Representatives introduced a Green New Deal resolution. The plan incorporated “a massive program of investments in clean-energy jobs and infrastructure, meant to transform not just the energy sector, but the entire economy. It is meant both to decarbonize the economy and to make it fairer and more just.” The proposal has generated interest worldwide, responding to a common concern that governments are not doing enough to address the climate emergency and social injustice.

In Canada, a coalition of concerned citizens and organizations decided to instigate a Green New Deal for Canada. The coalition invited Canadians to sign a Pact for a Green New Deal, which “demands we cut emissions in half by 2030, protect critical cultural and biological diversity, create a million jobs, and address the multiple crises we face through a holistic and far reaching plan that respects the constitutionally enshrined and internationally recognized rights of Indigenous peoples.”

The coalition went on to invite communities across Canada to hold town hall meetings to develop and refine the plan for a Green New Deal. Over 150 events involving more than 7,000 people were held in communities across Canada in May 2018.

Saskatchewan hosted 3 town hall meetings in Prince Albert, Regina, and Saskatoon, all of which were very well attended.

Prince Albert
Nancy Carswell, Council of Canadians – Prince Albert Chapter, reports that they were very pleased with the turnout in Prince Albert.

On a national level, Prince Albert participants wanted to hold corporations accountable for pollution and regulate automakers to achieve higher sustainability standards. They recommended that the government improve building standards, invest in renewable public transportation, ban single-use plastics, end uranium extraction, and legislate earth-friendly and healthy food production (e.g. eliminate pesticides, restrict hormones, limit distances food can travel). Participants supported proportional representation, a national basic annual income, universal pharmacare and dental care, as well as a national housing first policy offering cooperative, low-carbon affordable green housing, especially for Indigenous communities.

On a local level, participants focused on personal initiatives. These included travelling less and avoiding use of cars, investing in solar and wind energy, shopping locally and supporting farmers’ markets, participating in climate justice activism, voting for candidates who are committed to the environment, working in solidarity with Indigenous people, and embracing and becoming an advocate for diverse communities.

moss and leaves

Jim Elliott, Council of Canadians – Regina Chapter, says there was a mix of local, provincial, and national issues raised at their town hall meeting. These ranged from stopping construction on flood plains to eliminating urban sprawl and tax havens for the rich, and abolishing the Indian Act. There were lots of ideas on energy conservation, ending oil and gas subsidies, and achieving renewable quicker.

Jim says, “What was rewarding was the breadth of thought from cultural industries to housing, education, water, agriculture, welcoming refugees, and listening to children and elders.”

Dianne Rhodes, a member of Climate Justice Saskatoon, was one of the organizers of Saskatoon’s town hall meeting.

Federal concerns included transportation (need for better bike lanes, electric cars, and green electricity sources); keeping air, water, and soil clean; the federal election as an opportunity to move things forward; and reconciliation. Participants wanted to work with unions to find green jobs for workers on pipelines and in extractive industries. They felt it was important to work together and to counteract what the public is hearing from the extractive industries.

The discussion on community initiatives focused on personal, individual actions such as composting, talking to family and friends about what’s going on, retrofitting homes, gardening, spending time outdoors, and learning more about nature.


National Compilation
Each group forwarded the local feedback for compilation into a national plan. Responses were then sorted into categories with the following areas emerging as key priorities:

Economy and Government: a legally binding climate target keeping global warming to 1.5°C; a green jobs plan ensuring fossil fuel workers and affected community members receive the training and support needed to guarantee good, dignified work; increased unionization and implementation of workers’ rights; and personal and public subsidies for greener technology.

Green Infrastructure: massive public investments in the infrastructure to build a 100% renewable energy economy, sustainable public transportation, and prioritization of local renewable energy creation.

Social Justice: justice and equity for marginalized communities, free post-secondary education, full access to quality public services, permanent resident status and family unity for refugees and immigrants, and payment of Canada’s share of the climate debt of southern countries impacted by practices and decisions in Canada and of corporations operating abroad.

Fossil Fuels: freeze all new projects, develop a plan to phase out fossil fuels and move to 100% renewable energy by 2040, and eliminate fossil fuel subsidies from provincial and federal governments.

Biodiversity & Nature: grant personhood protection to forests and bodies of water, create an environmental bill of rights, stop dumping waste into bodies of water, greater protection for critical biodiversity and natural areas, and protection of at least 30% of land and waters by 2030.

Plastics: develop alternatives to single-use plastics, legislate curtailment of excessive packaging, and end boil water advisories in Indigenous communities.

Democracy: end corporate lobbying and introduce proportional representation. Indigenous Sovereignty: full recognition of Indigenous title and rights.

Moving Ahead
The town hall meetings were an initial step towards uniting, developing a voice, and obtaining a green new deal. National organizers are recommending continued discussions and further coalition-building, particularly with groups that are not traditionally included in environmental discussions.

Plans are in place nationally to hold 100 non-partisan, all-candidate debates on the environment prior to the federal election.

Both Prince Albert and Regina are planning follow-up meetings.

Saskatoon is planning a full-day event on September 20 as part of the global Climate Strike initiative. All local groups will be invited to participate. “We want it to be a big, family-friendly day of coming together and sharing information,” Dianne says.

Climate Justice Saskatoon is following Regina’s lead and has initiated a petition encouraging the City of Saskatoon to become a blue dot community in support of the right to a healthy environment. The Council of Canadians’ Prince Albert chapter has been working on a similar initiative with a specific focus on water.

To get involved, contact one of the following organizations: 
Council of Canadians – Prince Albert Chapter
Council of Canadians – Regina Chapter
Climate Justice Saskatoon