An advance glimpse of the Trudeau government’s priorities leading up to the forthcoming throne speech hints that the focus will be on dealing with the crisis of the moment—COVID-19. “But while there have been indications lately that the government would use the speech to launch an aggressive environmental agenda, sources say the recent spike in COVID-19 cases across the country means the immediate focus will remain on the public health crisis and the economic challenges it has created,” reports CBC News.
“There’s a sensitivity to being perceived to hijack the moment for a green recovery,” said a Liberal source to CBC News.
It may turn out to be just bad timing for the strong post-pandemic green recovery that climate activists and environmentalists have been clamoring for.
This has prompted a group of concerned citizens to write a letter to NDP Members of Parliament urging them—as members of the official opposition party in Canada’s Liberal minority government—to exercise a stronger and more convincing argument for confronting the climate crisis. That letter was also published as an OpEd in the Hill Times and featured below with permission.
Opinion: Why is the NDP failing to push the Liberals for climate action?
Recently, I joined other concerned citizens in sending a letter to NDP MPs expressing shock and disappointment at the New Democratic Party’s understating, and sometimes ignoring, of the climate crisis—even when given a chance to address a national radio audience. This was made clear on CBC Radio’s The House on both Aug. 22 and Sept. 5.
In the first case, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh did not speak up about the need for climate action, nor did he demand a strong green recovery program in the upcoming throne speech.
Two weeks later, NDP national director Anne McGrath didn’t mention green policies in her list of NDP demands for the throne speech.
The federal government declared a national climate emergency a year ago—now they need to act on it. The Sept. 23 speech from the throne will be critical to this process. Because it holds the balance of power, the NDP can and should have a positive influence on its contents.
It makes no sense for the NDP to leave the climate crisis out of the mix for several reasons.
Scientists have made it clear that this is the decade when serious decarbonization must be achieved.
During the 2019 election campaign, the NDP talked a good game: “The time for delay and denial is over—it’s time to act,” read its platform. The party said its plan would create 300,000 good paying jobs. The Liberals have been ineffective on climate action for five years. Surely, a strong, green stand by the NDP would differentiate the party.
The federal NDP has been at its strongest and made its most important contributions historically when it held the balance of power with a Liberal minority government. This is the perfect window for the party to be vocal on the need for climate action and push for its climate vision. Showing leadership on this critical file, and pushing the Liberals on climate action can only be seen as an NDP win.
On the flip side, remaining silent or weak on the climate crisis will be seen as a political loss for the NDP if the Liberals don’t deliver a strong green throne speech. The party might even look worse if the Liberals do.
Here are key promises we would like to see the NDP push for in the Speech from the Throne on September 23:
1) A Climate Accountability Act. This will include: legislated GHG emissions reduction targets with yearly impact goals; a legislated planning and reporting system; and an arm’s-length, expert advisory committee that regularly guides and reports on the whole system.
2) Stronger GHG Emissions Targets. The science demands that Canada cut its emissions 60% by 2030. That means starting this year to cut emissions at a minimum of 7.6% annually.
3) A National Green Homes/Buildings Retrofit Strategy. This could create hundreds of thousands of skilled, local jobs while substantially cutting carbon emissions from buildings across Canada. A national program is needed to co-ordinate efforts, inspire and rally citizens, and cut costs. This needs to be on the scale of $20B for housing and $6B for commercial buildings.
4) A National Green Jobs Training Program. Canadians, especially those working in the oil and gas sector, along with those who have lost work during the pandemic and those in precarious jobs, need to be readied for a greener, cleaner economy.
There are just a few days to push the Liberals to support and facilitate a Green and Just Recovery in the Throne Speech. The NDP has a rare opportunity to make a positive difference on climate with this minority government.
If not now, when?
(Authors of the letter to NDP Members of Parliament: Ken Johnson with collaboration from Kathleen O’Hara (Climate Crisis Legislation NOW), Lyn Adamson and Rolly Montpellier (Below2C.org).
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.