How we should restart our economy (August 16, 2020)

Good Sunday Morning!

So here’s a good one.  An epidemiologist, a virologist and a pediatrician walked into a bar…. Just kidding.  They are way too smart to walk into a bar in a pandemic.

Is it too soon for COVID humour?

And how about how we can no longer use that expression “avoid it like the plague”? We cannot use it because we know people do not avoid a plague…

And I will not ever say something has “gone viral” ever again.

I had a lovely visit on Thursday with a dear friend and Canadian icon, Senator Pat Carney. With six foot distance and all proper COVID protocols!  It is one of the more amazing things about how our paths have crossed and re=crossed again since 1986, that this venerable Progressive Conservative is now one of my favourite constituents.

It is easy to forget how much she accomplished as a woman in politics.  And when she was at the height of her career, handling multiple complex files, from trade disputes to saving what is now Gwaii Hannas National Park, far too frequently to count, the men in the Cabinet took the credit for her work. Ah well … tout ca change!

She suggested to me that, while she knows how hard I am working and that with Parliament only operating on Zoom and with limited physical participation, people may not know what I have been doing on their behalves.   I know I have never worked so hard in my life. And I equally know that I have succeeded in changing government policy more quickly and more often since mid-March, than in all my time as an MP.  A short list includes getting Finance Canada to recognize that religious institutions should qualify for COVID relief, working (with others) to get the wage subsidy up from 10% to 75%, getting a change in the Order in Council to allow married couples and immediate family members to have a right to come home, working for an Inquiry in the Canadian Senate into the impact of “wellness checks” and how they lead to so many deaths, and – of course – a host of issues for individual businesses and individual constituents.  Most recently, I helped the Canadian-Lebanese community press for more funds for relief following the devastating blast in Beirut.  I am working on a plan now to help all schools in Canada re-open safely.  It is a big idea, and I’ll tell you about it if it can come together.

Another element of my workload, in addition to parliamentary committees for hours nearly every day, has been submissions to the government. Last week was the deadline for all submissions to Finance Canada about how we should restart our economy.  Have a look.  Here are some highlights:

“We … urge that you, and the entire Cabinet, accept and absorb, as a priority matter, the current state of the climate emergency.  It is not an “issue” that we can manage with a 2050 deadline. It is much closer.    As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) explained in its October 2018 Special Report on 1.5 degrees, failure to take action to reduce by 45% globally against 2010 levels emissions of carbon dioxide will guarantee that we will close the window on 1.5 degrees C.  This is not a political target. It is a reality of atmospheric chemistry and physics. When the window closes, it cannot, ever, re-open.

“Shooting past 1.5 degree C implies heightened risks that human civilization cannot survive to the end of this century.  Unlike COVID-19, which brings threats to attention in the near term, the climate emergency threatens far larger risks, but over a slower time line.  The dreadful aspect (in the literal sense of an aspect that inspires dread) is that decisions we make in the next eighteen months will set an irrevocable course. That course can either take us to climate stability or to an unlivable world within the lifetime of our children….

“The imperative of climate action requires that Finance Canada adopt a climate lens. Just as dealing with COVID-19 brought Finance Canada into close alignment with public health goals, so too must the next phase be aligned with climate science. That implies zero new fossil fuel expansion and the shuttering of some existing operations.

“Top priorities for stimulus spending include:

1)    No spending – at all – should assist fossil fuels or fossil fuel infrastructure. We urge you to wind up the Canada Development Investment Corporation subsidiary, the Trans Mountain Corporation. Funds are needed for a revamped electricity grid. The Infrastructure Bank has, quite rightly, placed an emphasis on interties to expand interprovincial connectivity. The opportunity costs of TMX are not justifiable.

2)    Massive investments should be made in renewable electricity generation from wind, solar, geothermal, run-of-the river hydro.

3)    Investments in mega-dams are not needed nor wise as they are uncompetitive with the dropping price of renewables.

4)    No investment in nuclear energy is wise, not just due to the inherent toxic and radioactive legacy problems, but because nuclear cannot deliver the job creation, nor be competitive for the cost per kwh, compared to solar, wind or geothermal.

5)    Invest in a national energy corridor for renewably generated electricity.

6)    Invest in public infrastructure to support the transition to electric vehicles, both for personal use and public transit.

7)    Upgrade our built infrastructure to energy efficiency for carbon and carbon negative buildings and a massive programme of building retrofits to reduce GHG from “leaky” buildings and reduce the cost to building owners. Given the long term advantage in energy savings, this programme should be cost shared with commercial and residential owners. The former Eco-Energy Programme provides a template, but this should be much more comprehensive.

8)    Unleash the buying power of federal procurement to use only ‘green’ concrete, and energy efficient design.

9)    Deliver on the promised tree-planting promise, using ecologically appropriate trees by eco-region, aiming at two critical needs – urban forests to improve micro-climates and reduce urban heat islands and replanting areas destroyed by forest fires, stabilizing slopes along creeks and rivers.

10)   Transition funding for all communities and individual workers impacted by the transition off fossil fuels.”

That letter is from all three Green MPs. Jenica and Paul are also doing an awesome job.  This week, Jenica covered parliament raising a range of issues, particularly the urgent need to fund Clinic 554 in Fredericton, the only provider for reproductive health care, abortions and medical help for women in the Trans community.  I am so proud to work with such an amazing team.

Best wishes to all,

And will be back in your in-box next Sunday!


PS: Written for Canadian Politics and Public Policy by Elizabeth May Aug 10, 2020 – Climate Apocalypse Now: Venus, Anyone?

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