Canada's NDP

NDP

September 3rd, 2020

MP Alistair MacGregor Urges Federal Ministers to Make the Right Investment Decisions in Planning Canada's Post-COVID Economy

MP MacGregor addressed the following letter to Canada's Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, and Canada's Minister of Rural Economic Development to stress the importance of a just and carbon-conscious post-COVID economic strategy.

Dear Ministers,

I am writing to you on behalf of constituents and Canadians across the country regarding the need to start framing a plan for federal investments as a part of Canada’s eco-friendly recovery in the post-COVID-19 era. I believe that there are many opportunities to re-envision our economy to create a more just and sustainable Canada.

Making the right investment decisions now to ensure a visionary carbon-conscious recovery can place Canada as a global leader in clean technology development and export, and achieve a prosperous, low carbon future for all Canadians. Now is the time for the federal government to show the leadership necessary for a new path towards a more resilient future.

I am a firm believer in the impact that local grassroots movements, with First Nations consultations, can have on national policy. In my riding of Cowichan-Malahat-Langford, I am aware of several successful projects that, though proper federal support, can –and should—be implemented on a national scale. It is time to look not just at shovel-ready projects but also those that are shovel-worthy. After a number of consultations with members of my communities, I am pleased to have this opportunity to share some of my thoughts on the potentials for transition to the post-COVID-19 era.

For example, in my riding, the Community Carbon Marketplace model matches carbon credits buyers with local sellers, businesses, and organizations who have taken the steps to reduce their emissions. This model supports small greenhouse gas reducing projects to result in an online marketplace where buyers can feel good about supporting local initiatives. Purchases of Community Carbon Credits become an investment that helps support the local economy and fosters community resilience.

I appreciate that through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP), the Government of Canada is investing more than $180 billion over 12 years in public transit projects and green infrastructure. However, I am disappointed that there will be no additional monies invested into such projects in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Canada’s transit agencies are losing revenue and struggling to survive, and additional federal funding focussing on PPE enforcement and enhanced cleaning regimens, and to renew transit routes that were cancelled due to the pandemic, will surely be required to ensure that public transit options are safe and available for passengers and drivers. Furthermore, ICIP places far too much dependence on provincial government programs, thus denying the federal government of its role as the visionary for greater good.

Also in my riding, upgrading the Lake Cowichan weir is necessary for the long-term health of the Cowichan River, especially in the context of climate change modelling for our region. From the onset of my first term, my constituents and I have been urging the federal government to allocate the necessary resources to restore an adequate flow rate to the Cowichan River to maintain healthy and diverse wild salmon populations for the future.

Your government promised to protect our communities from the challenges of climate change and grow the economy by making significant investments in green infrastructure. While the investments made through the BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund to to do design, engineering, and studies needed to build the new weir were welcome news last year, the funding necessary to build the physical upgrading of the Cowichan Lake weir will require the federal government’s active participation, especially in the context of its clear jurisdiction and mandate to maintain healthy fish populations.

Ministers, we can all agree that, in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, more jobs will need be created; where we differ in view points, through review of ICIP, is how Canada’s investment into creating such jobs should be focused. For instance, given fluctuating prices and demand, and Canada’s carbon neutrality goal, specific actions should be taken to retrain oil and gas workers. Through upskilling existing energy sector workers for related jobs in the renewable sector, and actively integrating renewable energy into existing non-renewable energy infrastructure, Canada could position itself to ensure a just transition that benefits all provinces.

The potential for job creation in the building sector is large due to the number of buildings that need retrofitting. Green building sector growth generates compound job creation effects through additional local design, planning and policy, and infrastructure and engineering jobs. Low-carbon construction also has high skill requirements, providing opportunities for the development of jobs with good remuneration and promising career paths.

I appreciate that the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change includes an important place for clean technology, and jobs. However, when support for innovation focusses primarily on profits, opportunities are lost. Low-carbon innovation should not be reduced to cost-effective technical innovation; it should also involve business practices, social approaches and financing mechanisms. Furthermore, innovations that are not necessarily commercially marketable can have value through contributing to de-carbonization and improving Canadians’ quality of life.

The willingness of businesses to take risks and the capacities of governments to provide long-term direction and support are essential. For example, Denmark’s low-tech bricolage strategy enabled an advancement in learning and experimentation that eventually led it to be a world leader in wind energy. Canada cannot wait for “old-world” business solutions to solve the increasingly urgent issue of climate change.

In my riding, the Cowichan Bio-Diesel Co-Op, a community owned and operated non-profit organization, has been dedicated to supplying 100% biodiesel made from recycled cooking oil to all its members as a petro-diesel alternative since 2005. This serves as a prime example of grassroots projects that merit the attention and support of the federal government.

Moreover, advanced second-generation biofuels can be produced from non-food ligno-cellulosic feedstocks through a bio-refining approach. These pathways can also generate co-products such as heat and electricity. Advanced biofuels are now being demonstrated at commercial scale in both the USA and Europe, with one major plant in operating in Edmonton. Such advanced biofuel capacity may be realized by leveraging existing infrastructure and building on established supply chains in Canada’s agricultural and forest sectors.

As you are aware, the infrastructure industry is responsible for roughly 16% of the Canada’s carbon emissions; however, there is ample opportunity for improvement via building, renovation, and urban design. In building construction, through using wood where possible in lieu of concrete, the impact per 4-story building is the equivalent of taking 500 cars off the road for a year. Said construction designs use renewable materials and support Canada’s forestry sector.

Alternatively, graphene reinforced concrete, which Canada already has the mining and innovation foundation to support, and, is currently being implemented in the UK, can reduce carbon emissions from concrete by approximately 446kg/t. With 8% of the World’s carbon emissions emanating from concrete production, such innovation can demonstrate a tangible commitment to your government’s goal of achieving Carbon neutrality by 2050.

In regards to building renovation, assuming a 30-year renovation cycle, 75% of Canadian homes will require retrofits by 2030. The Alberta-based high-tech application MyHEAT uses large-scale data processing that establishes where energy is escaping from buildings, providing users with the information they need to understand their energy loss, increase efficiency, and reduce consumption. Moving forward, such leading-edge applications should have a pronounced role in Canada’s building retro-fit efforts.

Ministers, I believe that the health of the Canadian economy is dependant on the resilience and diversity of all its constituent parts. A renewed, sustainable, robust Canadian economy can and should be achieved from the ground up – from the regional, to the provincial, to the national scale – with visionary leadership from the top down. Inspiring local change for a better global future is a duty that we as Canadians all share. As such, I encourage you, in your respective cabinet capacities, to allocate the necessary resources to use the COVID-19 pandemic as a catalyst to bring Canada into a new era as a leader in an ethical and environmentally sustainable world economy.

I appreciate your attention to these matters, and I look forward to your reply.

Sincerely,

Alistair MacGregor, MP

Cowichan-Malahat-Langford