New rights group joins efforts to green recovery from COVID-19 economic shock

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The official plans for an economic recovery plan in Canada – green or otherwise – are still in their infancy.

It is likely that a time will come when governments will use stimulus spending to boost their injured economies. But almost all of the federal government’s attention is still consumed by the profound challenges of containing a contagious disease and reopening communities amidst an ongoing health threat.

Civil society, however, is not waiting to push the Liberal government to focus any stimulus package on sustainable and emission reduction projects – a push that now includes a group of environmental, financial and political figures who hope to write a package recommendations for the next two months.

The “Independent Resilient Recovery Task Force” includes people who are already playing a leading role in the discussion of a greener future, as well as the former Senior Plan Risk and Strategy Officer Ontario Teachers’ Retirement Pension (Barbara Zvan), Chairperson of the Insurance Commission of Canada (Don Forgeron) and a Former Deputy Minister of the Federal Department of Finance (Michael Horgan).

Among the group’s 14 members are also three former political advisers: Mira Oreck, who was a senior official in the office of the Premier of British Columbia, John Horgan; Mitchell Davidson, former director of policy for the Premier of Ontario, Doug Ford; and Gerald Butts, former principal secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The task force’s announced goal is to help seize a “unique in a generation” opportunity to rebuild “better,” according to an announcement to be released today.

Gerald Butts, former prime secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, is a member of a new group that describes itself as “a working group on a resilient recovery”. (Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press)

Bruce Lourie, the environmentalist and author who is now president of the Ivey Foundation, which helped organize the group, told CBC News that the impetus was twofold: both to ensure that the government did not give up eyes and invest in the “wrong types” of areas for the future, and to continue advancing work, the foundation had already started before the pandemic.

The task force report will add to a growing supply of green-based analytics. The Canada Green Building Council released a set of recommendations last week, and a coalition of clean energy experts and operators also wrote to the Prime Minister with his suggestions.

The group, launched Tuesday, also offers the opportunity to show transversal support for a set of green ideas.

“A carbon tax is obviously what people think of when they think of a green policy, but there are many other things that can be done that are still green,” said Davidson, who is co- author of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario platform in 2018. ”I think the question is this: if we are doing stimulus projects and we continue to focus on environmentalism, we also need to focus on the things that also matter to people, which brings them back to work and invests in people. pockets. “

Three-part test for action areas

Before any final recommendation from his group, Lourie already sees some potential courses of action.

First, the federal government could focus on home and building renovation plans – which account for 12% of this country’s greenhouse gas emissions – to improve the energy efficiency of Canada’s physical structures. Such an initiative would create jobs for tradespeople across the country while reducing energy costs and emissions.

The Liberal platform in last year’s election had already promised free energy audits and interest-free loans to homeowners and homeowners as part of a plan to renovate 1.5 million homes. But increased funding could lead to even faster and more profound changes.

As part of a long-term project, the federal government may seek to increase production of hydrogen, particularly in Alberta, said Lourie – an idea that is being explored by another group in that province.

Federal funding for public transit systems could also be used to increase the use of electric buses.

The task force says it will assess ideas using a three-part test – determining whether policies are economically expedient and sustainable, environmentally friendly, and both fair and achievable.

There are other issues that will affect any recovery plan.

The current economic downturn, for example, has had a disproportionate impact on women, the service industries and the working poor. The health crisis has brought new attention to supply lines and the extent to which Canada depends on international suppliers for important products such as medical equipment. The state of long-term care, particularly in Ontario and Quebec, has been described as a major weakness.

There will undoubtedly be calls to address these concerns with new investments.

The timing and implementation of any recovery plan will also depend on how COVID-19 is contained and the length of time that significant health restrictions remain in place.

Ready-made projects and projects worthy of shovels

But there is significant pressure, at home and abroad, to ensure that government stimulus packages are used to ensure long-term sustainability in the face of this other global threat – and it shows just how conversation about climate has progressed over the past 10 years.

Ten years ago, when policymakers were trying to tackle this latest major recession, the focus was on “ready to go” projects – infrastructure projects that could start quickly and create jobs and economic activity for short term. Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna has already adopted this sentence to explain how her department is analyzing potential projects.

In this slowdown, we are talking about instead of pursuing “shovel-worthy” investments – projects which cannot only start quickly, but which also deserve to be financed because they are part of broader objectives such as reducing emissions.

In the United States, the 2009 stimulus package included significant funding for clean energy. But climate change was largely relegated to the rank of a secondary concern once global stock markets began to collapse.

In 2020, we understand more clearly and more widely that climate change is a central and immediate problem, even in a context of global health crisis and unprecedented economic shock.

“Ten years later, we are much more advanced in our understanding of the importance of having a more diversified economy,” said Lourie. “And have an economy that will be the one that will support our country in 10 years, not just in 10 weeks or 10 months. “

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